Among those gathered was Malcolm Olaker, a direct care worker at The Pines of Poughkeepsie, a nursing and rehabilitation center. He stated, "I've been there eight years and it is very difficult to make ends meet. Everything is going up except our wages. There are people there making $9 an hour. How can we purchase necessities on that?" He told me that some workers there just saw their wages rise to $10 - still not enough, he says. "We all want the same thing. To be paid fairly and to provide for our families."
Also speaking out was Rasonia Squire, an unemployed dental hygienist. She said, "This is important. We need to find jobs and we need to be able to live on what we earn." Squires echoed the words of community activist Ann Perry, who said the minimum wage in this country is an "abomination." She stated, " What minimum wage really means is that employers can pay as little as possible."
The crowd consisted mainly of local politicians, including former New York State Senator Terry Gipson, Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner, and Tracy Hermann, Councilman from the 8th Ward representing Poughkeepsie. Joining them on the steps were leaders from the AFL-CIO and SEIU Local 1199 as well as Bishop Debra Gause of the Holy Light Pentecostal Church in Poughkeepsie, who said, "I didn't come to preach," before quoting scripture and stirring the group into a rousing "hallelujah!"
Fists were raised, chants were shouted, and spirits were raised at this small but determined event. Organizers promise to keep pressure on local and state government to ensure a living wage for all in 2016.